Skip to Main Content Library Homepage College Homepage
Research Guides

Database Tutorials

WorldCat Discovery


According to their website, "WorldCat is the world's largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information. ... lets you search the collections of libraries in your community and thousands more around the world."

What this means is WorldCat is an excellent database to use when you need a thorough overview of a topic, or when you're looking for something very specific that you haven't found in other databases. There are millions of records in WorldCat, and is one of our few database that has a wealth of resources in other languages. 

Probably best used for books (rather than articles), WorldCat basically collects the catalogs of libraries all over the world and collates their holdings with each other. Because articles are usually housed in separate journals/databases/websites, they aren't nearly as thoroughly cataloged, which means that they are more difficult to find in WorldCat than in another database (like Academic Search Premier, or ProQuest Central).


WorldCat Discovery vs. WorldCat FirstSearch


You may notice that in our list of databases, there are 2 WorldCat entries - WorldCat Discovery, and WorldCat FirstSearch. This tutorial will only look at WorldCat Discovery, but it's good to know a few things about the differences between the two, in case you're having a hard time finding what you need in one or the other.

So what's the difference?

First and foremost, they look very different. FirstSearch is meant to be used by experienced researchers (like faculty and librarians) who need to curate their results in very specific ways beyond just using the normal Advanced Search function. This ability makes FirstSearch a little more difficult to use, and less friendly to folks who are new to research or don't trust their technology skills.

In terms of materials, both have similar content - they have the same book catalogs and some of the same databases. In addition to those, WorldCat Discovery also will search "central index of 2,743 e-content collections + > 200 million article records in" (according to the link below). So you're more likely to find electronic resources with WorldCat Discovery, even though both are well-known for finding books and other print resources.

Ultimately, the choice of Discovery and FirstSearch is up to you. Use whichever one feels right to you. OCLC (the publisher) has committed to retaining both for the near future for a number of reasons, so you're also welcome to switch up your choice.

Because WorldCat FirstSearch is older and more difficult to use, we will only be exploring WorldCat Discovery in this guide, but feel free to reach out to a librarian if you are in WorldCat FirstSearch and need help!


Basic Searching

You will automatically be brought to the Basic Searching page if you get to WorldCat Discovery from anywhere on our websites or directly through If you're just looking to browse items on your topic without much concern for specificity, you may want to use the Basic Search function. The Basic Search page looks like this:

Screenshot WorldCat Basic Search

  • Type your search terms into the text box
  • From here, the only ways you can limit your results are by selecting one of the options in the dropdown menu that will appear once you start typing:

Screenshot WorldCat Search Populated Results

  • You can either select one of the options below - if you want a more specific "george"
  • Or you can just click the teal Search button Screenshot WorldCat teal search button and it will search for your terms in the full text.



Advanced Searching

In advanced searching, you are given more ability to pinpoint exactly the kinds of books and articles you would like to see in your results. To get to Advanced Searching from Basic Searching, click on the "Advanced Search" link beneath the basic search box (directly below the magnifying glass). Your screen will then look like this:

Screenshot WorldCat Advanced Search

  • In order to search author’s nametitle, keyword, accession number (aka: OCLC #), ISBN, subject, or something else (the list is extensive), use the dropdown menu by the search box to select the appropriate field.
    • If you are going to search in more than one box, make sure to chance the dropdown field to reflect what you are searching for - for example if you're searching for "dog" as a keyword in the second line, make sure the dropdown option says "keyword" instead of "title".
    • Also be careful using options that say "Phrase" - this will assume that you are looking for the words you've typed exactly, which is helpful when you know exactly what you're looking for, but not if you're trying to browse a topic/author/etc.
  • To broaden or narrow your search results, use the ‘AND’ dropdown menus before the 2nd and 3rd text boxes
    • There will be 3 options: AND (which is automatically chosen), OR, & NOT
    • AND: will only display results that include both/all the search terms
    • OR: will display all results with either/any of the search terms
    • NOT: will display results with the previous search terms, but will leave out results that include the following search term
  • If you need more than the three provided text boxes for search terms, click the plus button that says "Add a row" and use as normal
  • Before you search, you can limit your results by scrolling to the boxes at the bottom of the screen:
    • You can limit by Peer-Reviewed (don't pick this option if you're looking for books), open access, related editions, libraries (if it is held by just Geisel or libraries all over the world), Format, or publication year
    • Check the boxes or click the options in the lists that you would like to limit by (or select the format from the dropdown menu, or type in the publication year range)
    • This is optional - all of these filters will appear again on your result page (see below)
  • When you are ready, click the teal "Search" button
Searching Tips!
  • Not sure which word ending to use?
    • Attach an * to the base of your term, and the database will search for words that start with that string of letter, regardless of what the ending is.
    • Example: searching for feminis* will pull results for both "feminist" and "feminism", but not things like "feminine", which is missing the "s".
  • Want to search for an entire phrase? 
    • Surround your phrase with " ", and the database will search for those words in that order without anything in between
    • Example: "critical feminist theory" will return results JUST with those exact words in that exact order. So you won't get results that are something along the lines of "Feminists are critical of X theory".



Limiting and Reading Results

Once you click the search button, you will get a list of resources, which will look like the image below:

Screenshot WorldCat results

From here, you can:

  • Limit the results showing by clicking on the boxes on the left side of the screen that are below the "Refine Results" label
    • In this list, you can narrow your results based on Library (if we have it in Geisel or if it only exists elsewhere), Format, Databases, Author, Year, Language, and Topic
      • In parentheses next to each option is the number of resources that will appear if you limit by that particular thing
      • For example, above, if you limit your search by the topic "American Literature", there will only be 15 results
    • To undo that action, simply uncheck the box next to the option you chose
  • Change your search terms
    • Add or delete or modify terms in your search string at the top of the page
  • Find Full-Text of an article or see if Geisel Library has the book (more on that below)
  • Click into the resource's record to find more information



Reading a Detailed Record

If you click on an item to see more information, you'll get a page that looks like this:

Screenshot WorldCat Detailed Record

In this view, you can view description, explore editions and formats, and check availability by using the drop down menus on the right half of the page.

You will also see a replication of the Title, Author, Source Type and Journal information (if the source is a journal article) at the top of the right side of the page.

If you click "View Description" you'll see all kinds of detailed information about your resource:

  • Publisher: the institution or company that put that journal or book out into the world.
  • Other information: things like ISSN numbers, DOI links, etc. These will change depending on the kind of information the database can pull from the source.
  • Contents: short summaries or abstracts of the title (if available)
  • Subjects: topics that describe what the article is about. These are all links, so if you click on one of the terms, the database will automatically create a search for that term as a subject term and return all the other items that have that same subject term.

From this screen you can:

  • Find the Full-Text: more below on Full-Text, but there will be a "Check for Full-Text" link, a call number of where to find the book in Geisel Library, or a "Submit an ILL Request" button.
  • Cite the article:
    • simply click the button on the right that says Cite, and a box will pop out in the middle of your screen.
    • Click on the dropdown menu and select the style you'd like to cite in
    • Select the citation and then right click (or Command click on a Mac) and select Copy. Then paste into your document.
    • For more information on citing articles, see below.
  • Link: click the link button to get the URL that will always exist to bring you back to that exact page. This is good for when you don't have the time to write down a whole citation. Copy and paste that link to save for later. 
    • Note: if you try to use the url at the top of your browser, you will probably get an error result because that URL is uniquely created based on the search you just did. Your computer won't know how to read or bring up that URL again.



For more help with Searching, click on the links below:

Getting Full-Text

When looking for full articles or books in WorldCat, always look for either the "Held by Saint Anselm College Geisel Library" link or the "Submit an ILL Request", which look like this:

Screenshot WorldCat Held in Geisel Library LinkOR Screenshot WorldCat Submit ILL

So when in doubt, look for either of these and you'll get your resource. There are a few ways to get the full article you are looking for, and a few different screens you can do it from.


From the Results List

From the search results page, you can see if the item is held by Geisel Library. Items held by us automatically come to the top of your search results, but to determine if we have it already or not, look for the "Held by Saint Anselm College Geisel Library" link, which you can see in the screenshot below.

Screenshot WorldCat Held by Geisel Link

Click on that link and WorldCat will redirect you to the page in our catalog for a book, or a results page in the database for an article.

If we do NOT have the item, you'll see text that says "Held by other libraries worldwide". You'll have to click on the title in the result list to order it through ILL.

Screenshot WorldCat NOT held by Geisel



From the Detailed Record

You can also find if we have the item in our collections from the full description page. If we do have it, the same "Held by Saint Anselm College Geisel Library" links will still be there - in addition to it's location in our stacks if you scroll down the description half of the page to "Check Availability":

Screenshot WorldCat Description Held by Geisel

If we don't have the book/article you're looking for, after you click on the title of the resource you want to look at, there will be a teal button underneath "Check Availability" that says "Submit an ILL Request" which will direct you directly to ILLiad (see more below). 

For articles found in WorldCat, you can also use that same "Submit an ILL Request" button, but it might be worth clicking on the "Check for Full-Text" link right above it (see screenshot below). This will bring you to WebBridge.

Screenshot WorldCat description NOT held by Geisel



Using WebBridge

WebBridge is an application we use here in Geisel Library when articles are not available in full text in the database you searched. This means we either have access to said article in another database, we have it in print in the library, or we don't have access to it at all and you'll have to use Interlibrary Loan to get it.

When you click on the WebBridge link, one of three things will be displayed.

  1. a list of databases where the article can be found in full,
  2. instructions on how to find the print text in the library, or
  3. a link to Interlibrary Loan if we have no access to this article online or in print.
If Geisel Library has the article in full in another database

Your screen will look like this:

WebBridge Other Databases Available Screenshot

To see the full text of this article, simply click on the link to one of the databases shown, and you will automatically be taken to the article in full in that database.

If Geisel Library has the article in print

Your screen will look like this:

WebBridge journal in print screenshot

Click on the "Check here for Location" link provided, and you'll be brought to the library catalog, where you can see where in the building the title you're looking for lives, and what volumes (if it's a journal article) we own. That page will look like this:

Library Catalog record screenshot


You will have to come into the library itself to retrieve these items. If you can't find what you're looking for, feel free to ask someone at the Reference or Periodicals Desk for help. We're happy to assist!

If Geisel Library does not have access at all

Fear not! You can still get said article! Your screen will look like this:

WebBridge InterLibrary Loan screenshot

If this is your screen, simply click on the "Geisel Library Interlibrary Loan (ILL)" link. You will be redirected automatically to a login page for ILL, which will look like this:

ILL Login

Type in your SAC Username (the first half of your email address, before the @), and then your password is your student ID number (including the beginning letter, probably an S). Once you login, WebBridge will fill in all the information you need about the article, so you will be shown a screen that looks like this:

ILL Request screenshotSimply click the "Submit Request" button at the bottom of the screen (you may have to scroll down), and you're all set! You should receive an email from our Interlibrary Loan Office that explains where you can retrieve your article when it is available. If you have any other questions about Interlibrary Loan, feel free to look through our ILL page, or you can contact the ILL Office directly.


Citing an Article

To cite an article, click the button that says "Cite" in the top right corner of the detailed information screen, and a box will appear on your page that looks like this:

Screenshot of Cite box in WorldCat Discovery


Choose your citation style from the dropdown menu in the middle right. The box will automatically refresh after you choose an option to display the correct format.

Highlight the citation with your cursor, then copy and paste into your document.

Or, if you use citation managers, you can export this information by clicking on one of the links on the left side of the box.


NOTE: Double check the citation to make sure the information and formatting is correct!!! Our databases pull information automatically from places it thinks the information should be and may not be able to format it correctly. Always always check the citation given to you by the database against the regulations given in the respective handbook for your citation style.

If you have any questions about citing sources, you can check out our Research Guide on the topic.